What happened

It's been three months since fuel cell company Ballard Power (NASDAQ:BLDP) last reported quarterly earnings. These quarterly earnings reports coming three months apart, that means we're due for another earnings report any day now. Even before it arrives, however, Ballard Power is moving up -- up 12.9% to be precise, as of Tuesday's close.

Why did Ballard stock move higher on Tuesday? Yesterday after close of trading, Ballard issued a press release patting itself on the back, stating that "the Company's proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology and products have now successfully powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles ... for an industry-leading cumulative total of more than 30 million kilometers (18.5 million miles) on roads around the globe."  

Hand holding car icon emitting H2 from tailpipe

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

So, 18.5 million miles. Is that a good number or a bad number? Is it even a relevant number?

Divided by the "570 Fuel Cell Electric Buses ... and 2,000 commercial trucks" Ballard says are "currently deployed" with its technology built in, 18.5 million miles total works out to about 7,200 miles apiece. Divided further by the "some" of these vehicles, "that have been operating for over 8-years in the field," it might work out to fewer than 1,000 miles per vehicle. (Although it's probably more than that, as not all these fuel cell vehicles have been driving around for the full eight years).

I guess that's still good news for alternative energy, though. Even using the most conservative number, if the average fuel cell vehicle using Ballard's tech is able to drive at least 1,000 miles, it's safe to say the technology "works."

Now what

What would be even better, though, would be if Ballard could give us some numbers showing that it's earning some profits from powering all these vehicles. For the past five years, Ballard hasn't been able to do that, but ... there's always the hope that this quarter will be the quarter when Ballard finally earns a profit.  

Fingers crossed.